The Houston Astros finalized a deal with free agent first baseman José Abreu for three years, the team announced Monday night. The deal is expected to pay $19.5 million per year, or $58.5 million in total, according to Fox 26.
Abreu, 35, is a three-time All-Star who has won three Silver Sluggers, a Rookie of the Year award and the 2020 AL MVP. Last season, he appeared in 157 games for the White Sox, hitting .304/.378/.446 (133 OPS+) with 40 doubles, 15 homers, 75 RBI, 85 runs and 4.2 WAR. The drop is power might be concerning, but Abreu hit 30 home runs in 2021 and here's what RJ Anderson wrote in his (with Abreu checking in at number 17):
Abreu is getting old (he'll turn 36 before spring training), but he keeps hitting. More than half of his batted balls last season had an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher; here's a complete list of qualified batters who fared better in that area: Aaron Judge, Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Schwarber, and Teoscar Hernández. His maximum exit velocity, meanwhile, was in line with the marks posted by the likes of Juan Soto and Lars Nootbaar. The market tends to be unkind to older right-right first basemen, but Abreu, whose bat contains more pop than The 1975's discography, may be an exception.
The Astros, of course, won the 2022 World Series, but first base was a bit of an offensive hole for them. Yuli Gurriel again held down the position and hit very well in the playoffs, but during the regular season, Astros first basemen hit just .236/.285/.371, so Abreu is a big upgrade.
There might be concerns about Abreu's age, but 35 isn't really all that old when it comes to first baseman with Abreu's skill set. Given the batting average, exit velocity readings and contact skills, there's every reason to believe he'll continue to be an above average hitter for several more years.
Speaking of those contact skills, only 30 of 129 other qualified hitters last season had a lower strikeout percentage than Abreu. Among regular first baseman, only Josh Bell, Ty France, Freddie Freeman and Gurriel were tougher to strikeout.
Even better news for the Astros is there's a natural spot in the middle of their order for Abreu, slotted between lefty sluggers Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker. If the 3-4-5 goes Alvarez-Abreu-Tucker, which I'm betting it does, that means Jose Altuve leads off with Alex Bregman and Jeremy Peña filling the two and six holes, respectively. That's as good a 1-6 as you'll find in baseball.
On the White Sox end, it brings Abreu's career with them to an end. He concludes his White Sox career with a .292 average and 134 OPS+. He collected 1,445 hits, 303 doubles, 243 home runs, 863 RBI, 697 runs and 31.9 WAR. In White Sox history, Abreu ranks sixth in career doubles, third in home runs, fifth in RBI, 10th in runs, 10th in hits and seventh in total bases.
Without Abreu, the White Sox will turn to Andrew Vaughn at first base, his natural position when he was drafted third overall in 2019. In terms of replacing Abreu's production, they could upgrade in the corner outfield spots (or DH, if Eloy Jiménez goes to left field).